Eva Smith in An Inspector Calls
Length: 2191 words (6.3 double-spaced pages)
Do you agree that Eva Smith is presented as a victim in the play ‘An
Inspector Calls’? How does J.B Priestly use the Inspector to make the
Birling family aware of their responsibilities to individuals such as
Eva Smith and how successful is he?
When Eva Smith is presented to the audience by the Inspector, she is
immediately shown to be the victim of the play. The Inspector
highlights and describes how each of the members of the Birling family
has used Eva Smith. The Inspector shows that each character has
victimised her and that each of them has a part to play and a partly
responsible for her death. The Inspector soon shows us that he thinks
she is a victim as he describes her as
“A pretty, lively sort of girl, who never did anybody any harm.”
The Inspector tries to make each family member, including Gerald
Croft, guilty for how they have treated Eva Smith.
‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play all about the social attitudes of the
time. The play shows the attitudes of high class people such as the
Birlings and how they see other members of the community. The
Birlings are a rich family and they don’t feel that they should care
for other people. They think that they should only be responsible for
themselves and there family and not get involved with helping less
well off people. Mr Birling put it that “if we were all responsible
for everything that happened to everybody…it would be very awkward…”
The play shows how Eva Smith is a victim of the attitude of society in
1912. It shows how hard it was for her as she was young, had no
family and was unemployed, meaning she had no income to provide for
herself. The play shows how some women were forced to beg charities
for help to survive or how some young women were even forced into
prostitution to provide themselves money to live on. The play
highlights the bad way in which women, in a position similar to Eva
Smith’s, were treated at that time by society, especially wealthy
members of the public with high social statuses such as the Birlings.
The Inspector targets each member of the Birling family and shows how
they, as individuals, victimised Eva Smith and made her life harder.
The Inspector firstly shows how Mr Birling treated her. Mr Birling is
the father of the family and has a high status in the community.
Mr Birling is a successful business man. He is involved in local
politics and is hoping to be given a knighthood.
He is very
self-confident and quite arrogant and less socially aware then other
members of his family. He feels that the rich people should stay rich
and the poor people should stay poor. He is very anxious to keep his
status in the community, and often bullies people to do so. The
Inspector shows his part in the death of Eva Smith as being the fact
that he fired her from her job in his factory.
When Mr Birling’s son hears this he immediately asks “Is that why she
committed suicide?” Mr Birling however shows no sympathy for Eva
Smith. He seems much more concerned with his works and the financial
side of it, rather than the welfare of his employees. Eva Smith was
sacked because she was one of the ringleaders in a group of workers
wanting a pay rise. “I refused, of course” is what Mr Birling said to
the Inspector. This shows the reader and audience just how arrogant
Mr Birling is because he wasn’t even prepared to discuss it with his
employees. The Inspector highlights that now Eva Smith was
unemployed, she no longer had and income to provide for herself; this
was a bad position for a young woman to be in at that time.
When Sheila Birling finds out about a women’s horrible death she is
much more upset than her father saying “Oh – How horrible.” When she
finds out she knows the women and could be partly involved she is
distraught and runs out of the room. This shows how different Sheila
is to her father. She feels distressed and guilty for Eva’s death
whereas her father does not seem to show any emotions or any sign of
guilt or responsibility.
After being sacked by Mr Birling, Eva Smith had managed to find work
at department store called Milwards. A shop that Sheila and her
mother regularly visit. The Inspector then explains that Eva Smith
was soon fired from her job due to a customer complaining about her.
This makes Sheila agitated and she asks the Inspector “when was
this?” The Inspector tells her and Sheila then asks “what did this
girl look like?” It is after she is shown a picture of the girl that
she runs out of the room sobbing.
Sheila soon returns and speaks with the inspector. She obviously
feels guilty as she asks him miserably “So I’m entirely responsible?”
The Inspector says no but tells her that she is “Partly to blame.”
Although it was here bad temper and jealously that caused Eva Smith to
lose her job at Milwards, Sheila seems genuinely sorry for her
actions. Eva Smith is presented as the victim here because she has
been forced out of a job through no major fault of her own.
The Inspector soon goes on to mention that Eva Smith then changed her
name to Daisy Renton. The mentioning of this name clearly hit Gerald
as he gave a sharp reaction upon hearing it. The Inspector later
questions Gerald about his relationship with Daisy Renton. First he
attempts to deny this but he had already given himself away by his
reaction when he heard the name. He eventually tells the inspector
that he had an affair with Daisy Renton and then later abandoned her.
Gerald had met her at the theatre and they then “went along to the
Country Hotel” where they “had a drink or two and talked”. He soon
realised she was in need of help so he found accommodation for her at
an apartment Gerald was looking after for his friend. Although he
helped her and felt sorry for her Gerald admits that he didn’t love
her and he said that he “didn’t feel the same way about her as she
felt about me” Eventually Gerald broke it off with Daisy and she had
to move out of the room. She had saved a little money and Gerald gave
her some to keep her going till the end of the year. After speaking
to the Inspector, Gerald goes outside for a walk.
It appears that the Inspector has got Gerald thinking about his part
in Eva Smith’s life it shows that like Sheila, he also appears to have
morals and feelings. So far, Gerald is the only person who has
attempted to help the girl even, even if a part of it was for personal
Mr Birling’s wife, Mrs Birling is described as a “rather cold woman
and her husband’s social superior.” She makes very snobbish comments
and her coldness and lack of conscience make her very unsympathetic.
She appears to be out of touch with the reality of life. She is
extremely full of herself and seems the type of person who only cares
Mrs Birling is “a prominent member…of the Brumley Women’s Charity
Organisation.” She says, with dignity, “Yes. We’ve done a great deal
of useful work in helping deserving cases.” This statement again
shows us Mrs Birling’s distinct lack of conscience as she only helps
people she feels deserve to be helped.
Eva Smith appealed to Mrs Birling’s organisation for help. She gave
her name as ‘Mrs Birling’ which Mrs Birling was disgusted at. It was
“one of the things that prejudiced me against her case” said Mrs
Birling. Sheila points out how she died a horrible death. Mrs
Birling’s cold heartedness shows through even clearer now as she says
“she had only herself to blame.” Mrs Birling obviously feels that she
had nothing to do with her death; she is taking on her husband’s views
that she should not be responsible for anyone else in society. Mrs
Birling feels no regret for what she did as she felt Eva Smith was not
one of the “deserving cases.” The Inspector tells her that she did
something “terribly wrong” and that she will spend the rest of her
life regretting it. The writer here is using the inspector to have a
powerful effect upon Mrs Birling.
Throughout the Inspector’s interviewing of Mrs Birling, she shows no
conscience of sympathy for Eva smith. She feels that she has done
nothing wrong and has no part to play in Eva’s death. Sheila is
obviously distressed and showing sympathy as she constantly cries out
for them to stop talking when they mention the death of the girl.
Eric Birling is the last person to be interviewed by the Inspector.
He admits that he met the girl at the Palace theatre bar; the same
place where Gerald met her. He met her two months after Gerald’s
affair with her had ended.
It is later revealed that the girl was pregnant and that Eric was the
father. We are also told that Eric stole money from his father’s
office to support the pregnant woman. From then on, the family begin
turning against each other. When Eric hears of his mother’s part,
refusing to help the girl, he accuses her of killing her own
grandchild. Mr Birling is shocked about his son stealing and
immediately begins thinking of how to prevent this news being revealed
to the public. Once again Mr Birling is thinking of his family’s
social status. It appears that Eric used Eva Smith for sex and to
flatter his egos. Once again, Eva is presented as the victim.
The Inspector makes final speech upon departing. It is a moving and
thought provoking speech. I think that the Inspector represents the
voice of Priestly as he was a strong socialist.
“One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions of Eva
Smiths…with their lives…intertwined with our lives…We are members of
one body. We are responsible for each other.”
The inspector leaves and the family immediately start arguing. Mr
Birling does not seem affected at all by the night’s event. All her
is worried about is the fact that he might not get his knighthood.
Mrs Birling acts very similar all she can say is how ashamed she is of
Eric and does not show any sympathy for Eva Smith.
Mr Birling and his wife both remain confident that there actions were
justified and that they played no part in the death of Eva Smith.
Sheila on the other hand, is disgusted at her parents and she appears
extremely guilty and upset about what she has done. “I’ve behaved
badly…I’m ashamed of it.” She tells her father that he doesn’t “seem
to have learnt anything.”
After making some phone calls and finding out that everything could be
a hoax, Mr Birling begins acting as if nothing has happened. He
hasn’t learnt a lesson and neither has his wife. It appears though
that the younger generation, Eric and Sheila have learnt a lesson and
appear generally sorry and guilty for their actions. Mr and Mrs
Birling have obviously grown up with these morals and class division
and are not intending to change their ways now.
The play ends in a twist with a phone call from the police saying that
a girl has just died and an Inspector is coming around to question
In An Inspector Calls, throughout the duration of the Inspector’s
visit, Eva Smith is presented, by the Inspector, as the victim of the
play. The Inspectors explains how each of the character has
mistreated and victimised her, ultimately resulting in her suicide.
The Inspector uses her diary to explain how she thought and felt after
the main characters have acted on her. She is presented as an
innocent person throughout the play and the audience are made to
believe that she has done nothing wrong.
The Inspector is used to make individuals such as the Birlings aware
of their responsibilities to people such as Eva Smith. In the case of
Mr and Mrs Birling, I don’t feel he has succeed as they are very proud
and arrogant people who feel that it is not their duty to look after
other people in society.
The effect the Inspector has had on Sheila and Eric Birling is much
more apparent. Sheila feels guilty for her actions throughout the
play and is disgusted when she hears her parents say that they are not
and played not part in her death. Eric, though not showing it as much
as his sister, also feels guilty for his actions.
The moral of `An Inspector Calls' is that no matter what class we are
we are all equal and that we must work together. It is the Inspectors
role in this play to portray this message.